A Brief History
On September 9, 2015, a new record was broken! On this historic date, Queen Elizabeth II (r. 1952-present) became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. The preceding line was our opening line in our 2016 article commemorating the achievement by Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, on becoming the longest reigning monarch in British history. Today we take a look at some of the travails the Royal Family has gone through under her reign.
For starters, during her reign she has lost the sovereignty over many realms, losing her title as Queen of Pakistan, Queen of Ceylon, Queen of Nigeria, Queen of Ghana, Queen of Sierra Leone, Queen of Trinidad and Tobago, Queen of Malta, Queen of the Gambia, Queen of Uganda, Queen of Tanganyika, Queen of Malawi, Queen of Uganda, Queen of Kenya, Queen of Mauritius, Queen of Guyana, Queen of Fiji, Queen of South Africa, and darn near losing her title of Queen of Scotland when the Scots narrowly voted down a measure to achieve independence from the United (or “Not so United”) Kingdom in 2014, and Scotland is considering another vote of independence due to the current “Brexit” controversy with the UK leaving the European Union. Can you think of any other monarch that has lost so many realms during her (or his) reign without actually being unseated from the throne? Besides England, Wales, Northern Ireland and (for now) Scotland, Elizabeth II is also still Queen of 16 Commonwealth nations.
Another area of concern for the continued tolerance of the Royal Family and monarchy in the UK has been the behavior of the children of Elizabeth. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, took a rather long time about getting married and producing an heir of his own. He married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 when he was almost 33, a royal wedding much approved of and fawned over by the world. Diana captivated the public in a way Charles never could. Sadly, the couple divorced in 1996 amid rumors (later proven true) of unhappiness in their marriage and infidelity on the part of both spouses. Then Diana died in a car crash with her Egyptian boyfriend under suspicious circumstances, eliciting rumors of the Queen herself ordering the former Princess be murdered! (Not at all verified.) Charles then besmirched his own role as future head of the Church of England (Defender of the Faith) by marrying his longtime mistress, divorcee Camilla Parker Bowles, in 2005. Charles is currently the longest reigning Prince of Wales/heir to the throne and is also the oldest Prince of Wales ever. If he ever finally ascends to the throne, he will become the oldest monarch ever to take the throne of the UK or England.
At least Charles and Diana had the good grace to provide the UK with not one, but two potential heirs to the throne, Prince William and Prince Harry. Unfortunately, these 2 young men behaved as young men do, and have caused the Queen more consternation about the appearances of the royal family in the tabloid press. A bit of a playboy, William, as second in line to the throne, got a lot of attention from the press. Although his marriage to Kate Middleton in 2011 was well received, his partying in Switzerland in 2017 attracted unwanted attention when he was photographed dancing with another woman. The incident was made worse since he had skipped out on attending the annual Commonwealth Day church celebration in order to take vacation and party. Younger brother, Prince Harry, had been more problematic with his well documented party lifestyle, and eventual engagement and marriage to a divorced American (American!) actress, who just happened to be of bi-racial heritage. More troubling, Harry had been accused of cheating at Eton and engaging in nefarious means to qualify for admission to Sandhurst. Harry, while still a minor, was often seen smoking marijuana, drinking underage, carousing and even physically fighting with the paparazzi. A low point in the public presentation of Prince Harry came when he dressed for a costume party in a World War II style German Afrika Korps uniform with a swastika armband! Referring to Indian and Pakistani people as “raghead” did not help his public reputation, nor contribute to the dignity of the Royal Family. In 2012, Harry took his royal lineage to another new low, being photographed naked with a woman (or girl) in a Las Vegas hotel while playing pool. After Harry’s marriage to Meghan Markle, his adherence to the demands of Royal duties waned, and he has opted out of such a life, without consulting the Queen or gaining her approval. This sort of chaos among the innermost members of the Royal family has presented a poor public face of the monarchy.
The younger brother of Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, earned the nickname “Randy Andy” for his sexual shenanigans and party hearty lifestyle as a young man. In the past several months, this sordid reputation has taken a much darker turn, as Andrew’s association with alleged sexual predator and close friend Jeffrey Epstein has tainted Andrew and the Royal Family even more. Such a scandal is the association of Andrew with the now deceased Epstein and his tales of having procured underage girls for sex with both Epstein and Andrew, that the Prince has withdrawn from public life as a senior member of the Royal Family. Time will tell if there is even more serious nature to this story as the American FBI investigates the Epstein sex abuse affairs. Andy’s 1986 marriage to Sarah Ferguson, given the title Duchess of York, was also problematic. As their marriage became strained, Sarah was caught by the media with a romantic liaison with another man, leading to a divorce of the couple in 1996. Then, Sarah was caught in an unseemly money making scheme in 2010, in which she offered to share insider business contacts for a half million pounds Sterling. Her massive personal debt was then paid off by Andrew. Incredibly, Prince Andrew has also been implicated in a bribery scheme in Kyrgyzstan reported by the US Ambassador to the that country. Of course, Andrew’s nefarious financial activities are not confined to Kyrgyzstan, as he has also been implicated in financial irregularities involving the President of Kazakhstan, as well as kickbacks with Saudi businesses. Other financial irregularities in even more countries have also been alleged.
The sole daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Anne, also was involved in marital hanky-panky as she divorced her husband in 1992, after beginning a relationship with the man who became her second husband in 1989, a royal attendant. Secret love letters surfaced and were made public, causing the Queen that much more embarrassment.
Although the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Edward (born 1964), has had a steady and unremarkable marriage (since 1999), he has been accused of using his Royal name and connections to further his film company, Ardent Productions (1993-2009), which had been a perennial money loser. Making matters worse, an Ardent crew was accused of invading the privacy of Prince William in 2001, highly embarrassing for Edward and the Royal Family.
The icing on the proverbial cake for Queen Elizabeth II has been the “Brexit” fiasco, the sloppy and acrimonious exit of the UK from the European Union, resulting from a national referendum in which the people voted to leave the EU, effective January 31, 2020. Elizabeth has stayed out of the Brexit fray, failing to risk her great prestige in such a contentious issue, a failure we interpret as rather cowardly when national leadership is sorely needed. What do you think?
Now at the age of 94, we cannot expect Elizabeth to live forever, though she seems in relatively good health. Her long reign will probably end within the next several years, and history will judge her performance, one way or the other.
Question for students (and subscribers): Do you think Elizabeth has been a good queen? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Dolby, Karen. Queen Elizabeth II’s Guide to Life. Michael O’Mara, 2020.
University Press. Queen Elizabeth II: The Biography. Independently published, 2019.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of the Queen giving a speech at Home Office HQ, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. This image, originally posted to Flickr, was reviewed on by the administrator or reviewer Materialscientist, who confirmed that it was available on Flickr under the stated license on that date.